Luton beaten as Mahrez scores late on for Foxes
Pre-season friendly: Luton Town 0 Leicester City 1
What can you really learn from a pre-season friendly defeat late on to the former Premier League champions?
Well, on this evidence, that it’s good to have a permanent goalkeeper. Two is even better but, for tonight, James Shea take a bow.
It was a simple solution after last term’s custodian musical chairs where a succession of loan hands filled the gloves in the Hatters goal, with the uncertainty a factor in their failure to win promotion.
But, on his home debut, the former AFC Wimbledon ace excelled himself.
Easily forgotten was his only shaky moment when he somehow scuffed backwards and out for a corner a returned Johnny Mullins goal-kick, because he put in a man-of-the-match display to repel the Foxes, almost on his own.
It’s just that that pesky multi-million pound Roma target and former top flight player of the season, Riyad Mahrez, squeezed in an 82nd minute winner.
They didn’t show it tonight, but Luton have goals in them. We saw that from Danny Hylton and Isaac Vassell last season and, with the addition of Crawley hotshot James Collins and former West Ham starlet Elliot Lee to Nathan Jones’ roster, the manager has really hedged his bets at the sharp end.
The question is whether he could add the same swagger at the other end.
A stunning one-handed reflex save from Islam Slimani on 69 minutes to tip over the bar was the pick of Shea’s many interventions and suggested the boss has got it spot-on.
The goalie even got a touch on Mahrez’s winner after Alan Sheehan got a partial block on the effort. He looked anguished about the blot on his copybook, but without him it would have been a pre-season pummelling.
Leicester will be disappointed it wasn’t, such was their dominance, but 3,423 Luton fans can start to feel secure that they’ve got some stability in-between the posts.
They’re set to get a glimpse of their other new stopper, and likely number one, Marek Stech on Saturday against Scunthorpe. While Jones’ attempts to bring in a third-choice goalie will likely bear fruit by then, with a particular triallist, formerly of Stoke, named on the bench tonight.
Outside of Town’s penalty box, there was little to get excited about as the tone was set inside the first 30 seconds when City hit the bar.
Shea produced the first of his saves soon after, flying across his line to paw away a towering Harry Maguire header and then an out-swinging tester from Marc Albrighton, while Shinji Okazaki went close and Ahmed Musa should have at least hit the target after a lightning burst.
For Luton there were faint shouts for a penalty as transfer-listed Josh McQuoid tumbled under the attentions of Maguire, but he should have done better to distance himself from the defender after profiting from an initial mistake.
Barring an Elliot Lee sniff in the second half from a Frankie Musonda cross, the second half turned into Leicester versus Shea, who must have thought he’d got a clean sheet in the bag.
It wasn’t to be as City sporadically sent forth from their sizeable bench all but Kasper Schmeichel and Jamie Vardy of their remaining title-winning team.
In the end that kind of quality told but Shea’s performance, spoke volumes as to the competition there’ll be for the Hatters’ goalkeeping jersey this term.
Luton: O’Shea, Musonda, Senior, Rea, Mullins (Sibbald [triallist]), Famewo (Sheehan), Bakinson (Smith), O Lee, McQuoid (E Lee), Cook, Gambin.
Unused subs: Isted (triallist), James, Cotter, Read.
Leicester: Jakipovic, Simpson (Johnson), Albrighton (Mahrez), Musa, Maguire (Drinkwater), Okazaki (Lawrence), Iborra (Slimani), Ulloa (Amartey), Ndidi (King), Benalouane (Morgan), Elder (Fuchs).
Unused subs: Schmeichel, Vardy, Hamer, James, Ndukwu.
Attendance: 4,237 (814).